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Carer's Allowance

David Taylor: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what plans he has to review pensioner carers' access to carer's allowance payments. [152810]

Maria Eagle: We have no current plans.

Pensioners have access to carer's allowance. Around 22,000 receive the benefit, in full or in part. Around 44,000 pensioner carers receive the additional amount for carers paid with pension credit.

Child Poverty

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what steps his Department is taking to achieve the Government's targets of (a) ending child poverty by 2020, (b) halving it by 2010 and (c) reducing it by a quarter by 2004–05; and if he will make a statement. [154364]

Mr. Pond: The fifth annual 'Opportunity for all' (Cm 5956) report sets out the latest assessment of progress in tackling child poverty, showing significant progress.

As set out in "Tackling Child Poverty—Giving Every Child the Best Possible Start in Life", published in December 2001, the Government's strategy for tackling child poverty involves ensuring decent family incomes, with work for those who can and support for those who cannot, and providing support for parents. It also involves delivering high quality public services and harnessing the power and expertise of the voluntary and community sectors.

Based on the latest outturn data (for 2001–02) we have made significant progress on our PSA target to reduce the number of children in low-income households by a quarter by 2004–05. The 2003 Pre-Budget Report announced that the per child element of the Child Tax Credit will increase from April 2004 by £180 to £1,625 a year, equivalent to a weekly increase of £3.50.

As a result of this new investment, the Government is on track to meet its PSA target to reduce by a quarter the number of children in low-income households by 2004–05 on a before housing costs basis. The target is

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more challenging on an after housing costs basis. The nature of the target means that there are uncertainties either way. This extra investment will enable the Government to make progress step by step towards its goal to halve child poverty by 2010 and eradicate it by 2020.

The 2003 Budget announced a Child Poverty Review to examine, for the next Spending Review, the welfare reform and public services changes needed to advance faster towards its long-term goals to halve and then eradicate child poverty. The review is under way, with a series of seminars having been held during the autumn covering issues such as ethnic minority groups, educational outcomes, parenting, early years services, health outcomes, supporting families with disabled children and deprived areas. The Review will feed into the 2004 Spending Review.

In December 2003 we published Measuring Child Poverty, which outlines our measure of child poverty for the long term, effective from 2004–05. A copy is available in the Library.

Child Support Agency

John Barrett: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions how many self-employed non-resident parents have failed to meet the required Child Support Agency calculated maintenance payments in the last 12 months; and how many of these cases remain unresolved. [147836]

Mr. Pond: The administration of the Child Support Agency is a matter for the Chief Executive, Mr. Doug Smith. He will write to the hon. Member with the information requested.

Letter from Doug Smith to John Barrett dated 12 February 2004:

Mr. Jenkins: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions when he expects the Child Support Agency computer system to be working at its planned level; and if he will make a statement. [149476]

Mr. Pond: My right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has placed reports on progress in implementing the new scheme in the Library.

Progress is dependent on the computer service provided by EDS meeting agreed standards. The Child Support Agency is working closely with EDS to resolve problems with the IT but cannot yet say how long this may take.

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Tom Levitt: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions if he will take steps against internet sites which exist to help people reduce or avoid their obligations to the Child Support Agency. [154002]

Mr. Pond: If it comes to light that a particular site contains incorrect information, is defamatory or advocates illegal action, the Department will take appropriate steps.

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what (a) representations he has received and (b) assessment he has made of the (i) human rights implications and (ii) possible grounds for legal complaint arising from the unequal Child Support Agency assessments made between clients prior to and after April 2002. [154215]

Mr. Pond: Like many hon. Members and their constituents, we are keen that everyone who has dealings with the Agency should benefit from the reforms. However, we will transfer old scheme cases only when we are sure the new scheme is working well. Where an old scheme assessment is in place, the old law and provisions made under it will continue to apply until the case is moved to the new scheme. We are satisfied that this approach is legal and correct.

Civil Servants (Transfer of Pensions)

Mr. Pickthall: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what discussions he has had with those civil servants transferred from the Health and Safety Executive to Logica/CMG about their pensions scheme. [148736]

Mr. Browne [holding answer 20 January 2004]: In line with normal practice Ministers have had no discussions with the former civil servants who transferred from the Health and Safety Executive to the private sector about their pensions scheme.

HSE's IT services were first contracted out in 1995 as part of the market testing policy of the previous administration. Although occupational pensions issues do not fall within the scope of the TUPE Regulations, the Government Actuary certified the Bull-lntegris (hereafter "Bull") pension scheme as broadly comparable to the Principal Civil Service Pension Scheme. Staff were also provided with access to expert independent advice so that they could make informed choices about their pension arrangements.

The contract for HSE's IT services was re-let in 2001 and won by a consortium made of Logica/CMG and Computacenter. As a result, Bull transferred former HSE employees to either Logica/CMG or Computacenter (depending on their function). Although these issues are matters between the contractors, HSE encouraged Logica/CMG, Computacenter and Bull to come to a bulk transfer arrangement on the matter of pensions.

Logica/CMG have been unable to agree a bulk transfer of pension benefits from Bull in respect of employees past service with HSE and Bull. This is because such a transfer would result in staff being credited with a significantly reduced number of years in the CMG scheme.

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However, because of concerns about this issue I have asked officials to look at the case and confirm to me that procedures and accountabilities have been properly followed. This is under way and I will write again when investigations have been concluded.

Compensation Awards

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions for what reasons a compensation award counts as capital for benefits calculations. [150129]

Mr. Pond: Income-related benefits are intended to target help on those with the least resources. It is a long established principle that substantial amounts of capital should not be ignored when deciding entitlement to a benefit based on need and it is for this reason that all compensation payments are counted as capital.

However, compensation payments received and placed in trust for the injured person are disregarded when determining benefit entitlement.

Council Tax Benefit

Annabelle Ewing: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what the cost was of administering council tax benefit payments in (a) the United Kingdom and (b) Scotland in each of the last five years; what the value was of council tax benefit payments made in (i) the United Kingdom and (ii) Scotland in each of those years; and what estimate he has made of the total amount of council tax benefit unclaimed in each of those years. [149782]

Mr. Pond: The available information regarding the cost of administering council tax benefit and the total value of council tax benefit payments is in the tables.

Cost of administering council tax benefit (in £ million)

Great BritainScotland


Figures for 2002–03 have not yet been finalised.


1. Scotland figures taken from Scottish Local Government Finance Statistics.

2. Figures for England provided by Office of the Deputy Prime Minister.

3. Figures for Wales provided by the National Assembly for Wales.

Total value of council tax benefit payments (in £ million)

Great BritainScotland


Figures for 2002–03 have not yet been finalised.


Final audited subsidy returns sent to Department for Work and Pensions by local authorities.

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Estimates of the amount of council tax benefit left unclaimed in Great Britain are available in the Department for Work and Pensions/Department of Social Security annual report entitled "Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up". Statistics are presented on a financial year basis; the latest estimates relate to 2000–01. Copies of the publications are available in the Library.

Mr. Prosser: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions (1) what estimate he has made of the (a) cost and (b) number of beneficiaries of abolishing the upper capital limit on council tax benefit for people aged 60 years and over; and what plans he has to introduce this change; [152795]

Mr. Pond: Council Tax Benefit has lower capital limits above which benefits are reduced and upper limits above which benefits cannot be paid. When the present scheme was introduced in April 1988, the upper capital limit was set at £6,000. It was subsequently increased to £8,000 on 30 May 1988 and to £16,000 on 1 April 1990.

The estimated annual cost of abolishing the upper capital limit is approximately £50 million, with around 100,000 beneficiaries. We have no current plans to change these arrangements; however, under the new Pension Credit, there is no upper capital limit.

Mr. Hoyle: To ask the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions what proportion of pensioners were eligible for council tax benefit in each year since 2000 in (a) the North West, (b) Lancashire and (c) Chorley. [154224]

Mr. Pond: The information requested is not available.

National figures of the number of the pensioners in receipt of council tax benefit, plus the estimated number that are entitled but not receiving benefit, can be obtained from the DWP report, "Income Related Benefits Estimates of Take-Up". The latest statistics relate to financial year 2000–01; a copy of the publication is held in the Library.

National results for 2001–02 will be released later this month.

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